April 13, 2010

Law School Rankings and Faculty Diversity

Dean Vikram David AmarKevin Johnson (the first Latino dean in the history of University of California law schools) and Associate Dean Vik Amar (among the few Asian-Americans to have held that position in the University of California) offer a cogent argument for the inclusion of faculty diversity in assessing law school quality.

A diverse faculty, including women and racial minorities, better reflects the demographic shift that our country is experiencing. Imagine how meaningful it is for a young woman right out of college to see a first year professor teaching her contracts or torts. Imagine how heartening it is for a Latino student to see a Latino Dean of her law school.  Johnson and Amar also argue that a diverse faculty will likely to have a more diverse set of scholarly interests--and advance scholarship in new directions.

Anupam Chander

April 13, 2010 in Teaching -- research | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 22, 2009

Susskind on "The End of Lawyers? The End of Law Schools?" - liveblog

The Harvard Berkman Center's Law Lab sponsored a talk today with Prof. Richard Susskind at Gresham College / University of Strathclyde on the future of the legal profession and legal education. The live video stream can be found here.

Liveblog to follow...

The Future

Black & Decker does not sell drills; they sell holes in the wall. What's the actual value that lawyers offer? Maybe as KMPG describes it: "Transform our knowledge into value for clients."

Today's law firms are too reactive -- they don't anticipate client needs. Clients don't want dispute management but rather risk management.

Automation vs. Innovation: Automation merely systematizes that which already exists.

The Market

Most major clients face a dilemma in three parts:

  1. Pressure to reduce internal headcount
  2. Pressure to increase internal speed
  3. Yet more legal and compliance work than ever (and it's riskier too)

In short: clients want more for less. Two strategies in response:

  1. The efficiency strategy: cutting costs by moving towards commoditization or multi-sourcing. How do we take the costs out of the routine work? Or clients can share costs of similar problems.
  2. The collaboration strategy

(As of 2007, England allows private non-lawyer investments in and management of law firms. This stimulate investment and innovation of business models -- and the genie will be out of the bottle.)


Susskind's model: Bespoke > Standardized > Systematized > Packaged > Commodity

Law schools teach us to think of all problems as bespoke (esp. our study of appeals, Supreme Court), but that just isn't true. In reality, we start with precedent documents, not blank paper; often we even use automated templates. Why can't we package our expertise for clients to use for themselves, just as banks generate their own term sheets? We need to realize that we provide value for the client, that our value is not embedded with the form of our relationship. The last step, commoditization, is likely to happen online, and is often unattractive because the price trends to zero.

Law firms imagine themselves as bespoke, but that is both factually incorrect and strategically misconceived. Clients are strongly pulling towards commodity. We need to chunk client work down into these boxes. And much of it can happen by "multi-sourcing" such as outsourcing, subcontracting, leasing, open-sourcing, computerizing, etc... Who will manage this process?

Information Technology

There's a tendency to resist technology-driven change. But just as email swept law firms, other communication media are also going to transform legal practice.

Four examples of disruptive technologies:

  1. Closed client communities, as is happening across doctors (clients, not law firms, will join to share experiences).
  2. Online dispute resolution
  3. Embedded legal knowledge. [What I call "codelaw" -gk]
  4. Electronic legal marketplace

The Shape of Law Firms

The traditional pyramid, with junior lawyers as profit centers, will change to new modes of sourcing. [How, then, will new lawyers be trained? This was a question I've raised earlier -gk]

Access to Justice

Rolls Royce service for the rich, free services for the poor, nothing for the rest. How about online legal advice, open sourcing of legal materials, establishing communities of experience among "clients." Remember Voltaire: "The perfect is the enemy of the good."


What parts of lawyers' work can be undertaken differently -- more quickly, cheaply, efficiently, or to a higher quality -- using alternative methods of working?

What are lawyers' competitive advantage?

Future jobs for lawyers?

Law Schools?

The curricula of most law schools have serious gaps, because we are training the one-to-one, face-to-face, bespoke crafters. Instead we need more emphasis on complex teams reflecting all of the above. Even in the world today law firms complain about what law schools aren't teaching -- globalization, technology, etc.

Should we extend the mission of law schools to include other disciplines such as risk management, project management, legal knowledge management, and disruptive legal technology.


Some concern about embedded systems appearing to the users as "natural" and not amenable to challenge. Likewise, concern about mistakes becoming hardened inside systems or packages.

Existing disencentives from change, including up-front investment in new systems. But the market is demanding it, and it will eventually get what it wants. Law firms need a more R&D mentality.

Will the firms win or will the new winners be other players? How can you convince a room full of millionaires that their business model is all wrong? Maybe 2/3 will suffer and decline, and we'll see new service providers. Multi-sourcing model may allow US firms to innovate without the need for external investment.

- Gene Koo

April 22, 2009 in Legal profession realities and developments, Teaching -- research, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

Survey of New Attorneys: Raw data

Back in November, I asked for your input on a survey the Berkman Center was conducting in conjunction with LexisNexis. The white paper is now moving through its final drafts, but in the spirit of sharing and transparency, I'm releasing the data itself for anyone who may be interested.

The survey targeted LexisNexis customers whose accounts are less than seven years old. Our intention was to capture newer/younger attorneys, though the correlation between the goal and the actual population is imperfect. The survey was conducted through a web-based tool.

Additional caveats: with only 142 respondents, the margin of error is a fairly high ±8%; the survey itself is heavily skewed towards large-firm practice and away from solo practice (the other segments are fairly representative); and the nature of the survey -- targeted at LNG customers, through Web/email -- is also likely to skew towards (a) big firm practice and (b) the technologically savvy.

I will post findings from the white paper over the next few weeks and welcome your feedback.

LexisNexis/Berkman Raw Survey Data (CSV)

- Gene Koo

March 13, 2007 in Serving students, Teaching -- research, Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

Open-admission law journals

Student-edited law reviews that ignore grades, conduct no write-in competitions, and welcome anyone who wants to join?  Well, why not?  Paul Horwitz proposed the idea six months ago.  Inspired by a discussion of the idea on First Movers, MoneyLaw now joins issue.

-- Jim Chen

November 27, 2006 in Teaching -- research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2006

Seeking your input in a survey of new attorneys

LexisNexis has offered to help us (the Berkman Center's research initiative) learn more about how prepared new lawyers are for today’s legal work world by conducting a survey of recent graduates. I ask anyone with an interest in the topic to submit your suggestions for what this survey should entail. While not every question can be answered by this survey, I hope to get some good ideas as well as instigate some good discussion.

Because our project focuses on the influence of technology on practice and on education, I would especially appreciate questions that poke in that general direction.

So, to restate the question: As someone interested in legal education or training (whether you’re a law professor, law firm manager, CLE provider, director of professional development, legal technologist, law librarian, associate, or law student), what did you wish you knew about today’s newest attorneys (say, those with 0-5 years of experience)? Also, given limited resources, should we attempt to survey one population (say, big firm associates) more thoroughly, or try to get participants from across practice settings?

Gene Koo

November 12, 2006 in Teaching -- research | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack